Revolutionary Road

By Rex HoggardJanuary 13, 2011, 1:38 am

PGA TourIn his first post-game as Hyundai Tournament of Champions czar even Mark Rolfing seemed flummoxed by the strangest of weeks. “There is a tournament going on and all we are talking about is appendages. That was weird,” he admitted.

But if the 2011 opener was bathed in the surreal, from two-time defending champion Geoff Ogilvy’s injury-induced withdrawal to Camilo Villegas’ self-induced disqualification, those odd happenings only masked an ongoing malaise that pre-dates Rolfing and Hyundai.

With respect to champion Jonathan Byrd and the 31 other players who braved a week at the Ritz, the Tournament of Champions felt less like opening day than it did the first day pitchers and catchers report to camp. But then that’s been the story for the better part of a decade.

Rolfing lamented poor attendance despite the tournament’s decision to offer free admission, returning to a familiar theme every time the Tour ventures to Maui.Plantation Course

“Maybe we had to win back the trust of the community, maybe the community became disengaged with this event. I think we did make strides. I think it will be better next year and it wouldn't hurt if Tiger Woods could win a tournament,” Rolfing told the Maui News.

If, like the rest of us, the independent contractors ultimately vote with their feet Woods and Phil Mickelson have been rather clear on this. Woods, who in his defense didn’t qualify for this year’s winners-only event, last played Kapalua in 2006, while Lefty hasn’t played the opener in a decade (2001). Call it the Maui mandate.

And it wasn’t just Woods and Mickelson passing on pineapples. All total five 2010 Tour winners didn’t make the trip to Maui – Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen. Three of those five are not Tour members and are limited to 11 U.S. starts, counting The Players Championship, but that only partially explains why Kapalua has become something of an afterthought for some of the game’s top players.

That Kapalua was mentioned, not completely jokingly, as a possible candidate for “designated tournament” status when the measure was being debated last year is a testament to how one of the game’s toughest tickets has become something of a tough draw.

After the quality of golf course, the ultimate arbiter of who plays where, the second rule of successful tournament running is location, location, location. Even on your own G6 Hawaii is a haul, and it doesn’t help that fierce Kona winds and grainy greens are not exactly the soft opening some players would like.

Depending on your point of view, the real start of the 2011 season will come in three weeks at Torrey Pines where Woods and Mickelson will likely make their Tour debuts, or next week at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on the European Tour, an event that will include three of the top 4 players in the World Ranking.

Kapaula has created a nice niche on the Tour docket, a prime-time TV slot on a scenic golf course with all but a handful of those qualified making the trip. But if the event is ever going to achieve complete relevancy revolutionary steps are required.

When the tournament moved from La Costa in southern California to Hawaii in 1999 it must have seemed like the perfect marriage, but the logistics of a modern game have made an early-season hop to Hawaii awkward for some of the Tour’s titans.

A return to La Costa, which is set to undergo a $10 million facelift, would help, although two SoCal events (the Farmers Insurance Open is scheduled for later this month) so close to each other has proven to be challenging for organizers.

A better option may be co-opting an existing venue. The raucousness of TPC Scottsdale, combined with an already proposed move to effectively double the Tournament of Champions field size by giving Tour winners a two-year exemption, would add excitement; while Doral, which was converted to a WGC in 1999, offers an intriguing combination of storied golf course and geographic simplicity. Essentially, fewer excuses to skip the opener.

A move back to the mainland would also require some schedule tinkering, a reality that may be unavoidable given the circuit’s current economic headwinds.

Woods, Mickelson & Co. have increasingly refined their schedules to peak for the majors and starting your season on Jan. 1 is not exactly conducive to that end when Magnolia Lane is some four months down the road.

Beginning the season later in January would help and given the shaky ground of the Fall Series, in 2007 there were seven post-Tour Championship events compared to just four this year, a tightening of the schedule seems likely.

Whatever the answer, for 13 years the Tour has billed Kapalua as its kickoff classic but the marquee has not been entirely cooperative. Those who enjoy umbrellas in their adult beverages may not like it, but if that’s ever going to change it may be time to say aloha to a Hawaiian season opener.

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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Arizona captures NCAA DI Women's Championship

By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 11:56 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – Turns out this match play format provides fireworks. Almost always.

In the four years since the women’s NCAA Championship has switched from the stale, 72-hole stroke-play format the championship matches have been pure magic.

This year, again, the title came down to the last match and Arizona took home its third title with a 3-2 victory over Alabama when Haley Moore defeated Lakareber Abe by making a birdie on the 19th hole. The last time the Wildcats won the NCAA Championship was in 2000, when coach Laura Ianello was on the team.

Arizona def. Alabama, 3-2

Yu-Sang Hou (AZ) def. Lauren Stephenson (AL), 4 and 3

Kristen Gillman (AL) def. Gigi Stoll (AZ), 4 and 3

Cheyenne Knight (AL) def. Bianca Pagdanganan, 4 and 2

Sandra Nordaas (AZ) def. Angelica Moresco (AL), 1 up

Haley Moore (AZ) def. Lakareber Abe (AL), 19th hole

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''